If you’re feeling a mix of excitement and nervous jitters as you approach your birth, you’re not alone. Thinking about the logistics of how it will all happen is stressful for sure. Luckily, many hospitals (and birth centers) offer tours for parents-to-be so you’ll feel more comfortable about where your little one will be entering the world. It can be helpful to have a few questions in mind on your hospital birth tour as you determine if it’s the right place for you to give birth.
Here are 10 questions to ask on your hospital tour
1. I am planning to have a ____ birth. How would you support that here?
For a planned epidural, find out whether there’s an anesthesiologist available on the labor floor 24/7. But the following info is really important for you too, because even with a planned epidural, it’s awesome to have a big toolbox of coping skills.
For an unmedicated birth (and everyone else, too), ask whether there are nurses and providers who have experience with, and love, attending low-intervention births. Ask whether they work with doulas (see #3 for details) and what coping mechanisms they offer.
2. What is your intervention rate?
Interventions are any medical procedures done during your labor—this might be continuous monitoring, episiotomies and, of course, c-sections. The C-section rate in the United States is currently at about 32% (the World Health Organization estimates that it should be 10% to 15%). This percentage does vary a lot among hospitals. You are very much allowed to ask so you can make sure the hospital’s tendencies are in line with your priorities.
3. What labor coping tools do you offer?
The kinds of tools we’re talking about include bathtubs (for water births or just to labor in), showers, birth balls, birthing stools, essential oils and space to walk, to name a few. And if they don’t have what you want there, are you allowed to bring it from home?
4. How many people are allowed in the labor room with me?
Many hospitals have protocols that limit the number of support people allowed in the room with you, so if you’re planning to have more than one, check first. And if one of those people is a doula, find out how your hospital staff feels about doulas (we think doulas are AMAZING, and it’s always great when your birthing place agrees).
5. What follow-up support to do you have for parents after we go home?
Many hospitals have support groups, breastfeeding groups, access to lactation consultants, 24-hour nurse lines for answering questions, classes for new parents and many other resources available to help you get this whole parenting thing off to a good start! Don’t be shy—they really want you to utilize their services.
6. Are you certified baby-friendly?
Many hospitals are becoming certified as “baby friendly.” Essentially this means that they prioritize things like skin-to-skin bonding with your baby, rooming in with your baby and breastfeeding. If a hospital is baby friendly, it’s more likely to have systems in place that support these goals, like routinely doing the initial post-birth baby care on your chest instead of in the warmer across the room and having lactation consultants on staff to help you get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Don’t lose hope if a hospital doesn’t have the certification. It may still be unofficially very baby friendly. Just ask what their policies are and you’ll get a good idea.
7. What makes your hospital unique?
Hospitals are often proud to tout their new initiatives—whether breastfeeding coaches, amazing food (score!) or top-trained staff. Make sure you ask what they think makes this facility unique as you decide where to bring your baby into the world.
8. What exactly happens when I go into labor?
- Is there a number I call to let you know that I am in labor and on my way?
- Where should we park?
- Where should we check in and what documents do I need to have with me?
- Can you walk me through the steps I’ll take from arriving at the hospital to being brought to my labor room?
9. What is the postpartum experience like?
After you give birth, you may spend the duration of your stay in the same room, or you may be moved to the postpartum unit. Ask to see one of the rooms if possible, and find out whether they are private or shared, whether your support person/significant other can stay overnight with you and what the visitor policy is.
10. Can you tell me about your NICU?
Hopefully you won’t have to worry about this. But if your baby needs to spend some time getting a little extra support in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), you’ll be comforted to know what the hospital has in place.
A version of this story was originally published on Jan. 31, 2017. It has been updated.